DIY and the Super Spartan


So I completed the Virginia Super Spartan this weekend. For anyone not familiar with these races, they are ~8 mile races with 25+ obstacles in them. Some obstacles are trivial and some are very challenging. Failing an obstacle means you have to do 30 burpees. The VA Super Spartan is another beast all together in that it takes place at a ski resort. The lowest elevation for the race is about 1000 feet below the highest elevation and between miles 5 and 6 you hike those 1000 feet all at once up a black diamond ski slope. It would be fair to say that this is the hardest Spartan race by the mile there is. And many feel like it is the second hardest Spartan overall (with the Vermont Beast, the 12 mile championship course as the hardest).

This was my first Spartan race and while I sort of knew what to expect, I really didn’t. I drank Soylent for my breakfast and lunch the day before, then had dinner with my group at a resort restaurant (I am normally 2 meals a day DIY). I then had another glass of DIY before bed (this batch with more potassium and sodium than normal). Upon waking up a couple of hours before our start time, I drank two more glasses (about 800 calories worth) and headed to the course.

It quickly became apparent that my training had been insufficient. My team broke contact with me before the first hill was done (our team was based around trying to beat one member of the team rather than going over the course together). My cardio was insufficient to maintain contact. I made it through the first 3.5 miles without TOO much trouble. I had to pause from time to time to catch my breath, but after I started mediating my pace better, I actually managed to jog some sections and was feeling okay. At 3.5 miles (more or less official distance, which was probably more like 4 miles actual distance since obstacle distance doesn’t count) my left quad started to cramp up. Within another quarter mile, my right quad did too. I failed the next obstacle and the 30 burpees I did finished the job. From then on I was fighting constant cramping of my quads.

I do not think soylent had anything to do with this. I was insufficiently trained for the rigors of this course and my quads simply weren’t up to the task. Many, many people suffered quad cramps at various points of the race. Some before mine, MANY at the bucket carry (including an Elite athlete who sat on his bucket for 30 minutes because of quad cramps) which was at mile 4. Throughout, I ate Shot Bloks and GUs (once per mile or hour whichever came first) but never felt like I had no energy. Once my cramping began (and it was only my quads), my cardio was never pressed because I couldn’t maintain my pace long enough. Downhill I was okay, but uphill I had to pause every 20 steps or so. The mile uphill seemed like it went on forever.

I finished in 6:13.24 (that’s 6 hours) which was about an hour slower than the average time. Interestingly enough, while my legs were totally shot and I could barely walk around, my energy level was fine. I was wide awake and not particularly “exhausted” mentally. I ended up driving home that evening (though I hadn’t planned on it). I’m currently barely able to walk, but yesterday and today I was able to function mentally throughout the day quite well. I would basically say that my performance on soylent was at least equivalent to what I would have been able to do without it given my training prior to the event.


Nice job on finishing, and good reporting.

I think you’re on target with the extra electrolytes you consumed the day before, but you still need to be trained up for an event like that.

Specifically, if you had trained your legs properly for that sort of event, your quads would be more vascularized. Th extra blood flow wouldn’t necessarily make you stronger, faster, or give you more wind… but it would make your legs able to recover faster from each bout. Inadequate blood flow during high demand is tightly correlated with exercise-induced muscle cramps.

The muscles need to dump metabolites as well as pick up fuel and oxygen as fast as they work in order to keep going, and those unusual challenges will affect the muscles differently from just running to improve your “wind.”


I absolutely agree with you. My problem was incorrect/insuffcient training leading up to the race. I’ve already formulated a partial plan for next year.


Up hill is one of the hardest task for legs that are not trained for it :slight_smile: gj


Congrats on toughing through the race with a quad cramp. Thanks for reporting on this. It definitely sounds like your had the cardio and energy. I guess you’ll be giving your legs some extra training after than race.


Both quads ended up cramping up before 4 miles was done, it did make the rest of the race pretty brutal. I don’t actually think my cardio was where it needed to be. It was only sufficient because my cramping quads limited my pace to a little faster than glacial. (Mostly duration, I couldn’t go much more than 20 steps at a time before having to pause to rest my quads). In the early race, I had to go VERY slowly uphill not to find my chest heaving and my heart rate highly elevated.

I’ve been super energetic since then. I finally am able to walk with only minor pain. My calves are actually what hurts the worst right now, though my quads and glutes are definitely still tender. I did a standing squat (no weight) just a few minutes ago and my legs were sore for much longer than I expected afterwards (not significant soreness, but still there).

Since my upper body was weak for the race, but also didn’t get nearly as much punishment, I actually did a short 15-20 minute upper body workout last night to try and burn off some of the excess energy. it felt pretty good actually. Tomorrow I’ll either lift some light weights or go for an easy jog I think.